ATLANTA -- Julio Teheran escaped a few potentially damaging situations, and the Braves constructed yet another productive first inning against Gio Gonzalez on the way to claiming a 2-1 win over the Nationals at Turner Field.
While winning five of six against the second-place Nationals over the past two weeks and 12 of the first 16 games in this season series, the Braves have gained a 15 1/2-game lead and all but erased any intrigue surrounding the National League East race.
Their primary focus is to secure postseason home-field advantage by maintaining the NL-best record they have gained while winning 19 of their past 22 games.
With the comfortable division lead, Gonzalez took advantage of the opportunity to give Brian McCann, Jason Heyward, Justin Upton and Andrelton Simmons a chance to rest after playing the entirety of Saturday's marathon contest that extended into the wee hours of the morning. This simply provided Philip Gosselin a chance to record his first two career hits in his first Major League start.
After B.J. Upton drew a walk to begin the bottom of the first inning, Gosselin recorded a bunt single that came courtesy of a well-placed sacrifice attempt. This set the stage for Freddie Freeman andChris Johnson to produce RBI singles that foiled Gonzalez and added to their success in run-producing situations.
With runners in scoring position, Freeman has batted .441 (45-for-102) and Johnson has hit .337 (30-for-89).
The two-run first inning proved to be enough for Teheran, who allowed five hits and stranded nine runners over six scoreless innings. The 22-year-old right-hander has allowed fewer than two runs in five of his first six starts since the All-Star break.
Teheran put two runners on before recording an out in each of the first three innings. But the Nationals, who have batted .159 (14-for-88) with runners in scoring position against the Braves this year, came up empty in each situation. Washington also squandered the two-out doubles Bryce Harper and Chad Tracy hit in the fifth and sixth innings.
Because their bullpen was taxed on Saturday, the Nationals opted to send Gonzalez to the plate after Teheran took advantage of the chance to intentionally walk Kurt Suzuki following Tracy's sixth-inning double. Gonzalez struck out on six pitches to end Teheran's 105-pitch outing.
Gonzalez was nearly flawless after allowing the Braves to score at least two first-inning runs against him for the third time this season. He surrendered just two more hits and held Atlanta scoreless over the remainder of his 120-pitch, seven-inning effort.
Left-handed reliever Scott Downs allowed the Nationals to put two on with one out in the seventh inning. This prompted the entry of David Carpenter, who surrendered Jayson Werth's RBI single before striking out Adam LaRoche on the front end of a double play that included Gerald Laird throwing out Werth trying to steal second base.
The Braves have an off-day on Monday.
--- Source: MLB.com